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Letters written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 12 Mar 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (12 Mar. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199230633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199230631
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 1.8 x 13 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 298,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

This collection brings to life a radical writer. (Katie Toms, The Observer)

Book Description

These twenty-five letters, published in 1796, describe Mary Wollstonecraft's audacious trip to Scandinavia to retrieve a stolen ship for her lover Imlay. More than just a travelogue, they provide fascinating insights into the radical philosophy of this influential thinker, and the inner turmoil she was experiencing at the time. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Geoff Sawers on 5 April 2011
Format: Paperback
If the guiding spirit of Wollstonecraft's `Original Stories' was Dissenting Christianity tinged with a little pantheism, in the `Letters' it is the other way round. Her typically rational, enquiring manner is still evident ("At supper my host told me bluntly that I was a woman of observation, for I asked him men's questions") but the landscape inspires her to frequent outbreaks of wonder at the sublime scenes before her. These rhapsodies are not confined to waterfalls and mountains, however, but also gentler, more homely scenes - the kind of thing that Burke would have called merely `beautiful' - in her solitary evening rambles. She cheerfully relates that, occasionally losing her way, she would to the consternation of the locals, have to clamber over ditches and hedges to get home. But even as she celebrates the simple life, she also attacks Rousseau's idealism. That the world needs improving, she does not question; we need to clear the forests and plant, to cultivate both crops and manners. She is no revolutionary; a middle-class radical at most, taking a `good manners' view of the Progress of Society. You can certainly tell that she had worked as a governess. She accepts entirely that there are to be strata in society, from the highest to the lowest, when she writes that `we' should care for `our' servants and treat them well; it is hard to imagine that she would ever dream of emancipating them.

Where Wollstonecraft's radicalism comes through most strongly is in her contrast of Norway and Sweden. She wishes to show that Norway is more advanced and sophisticated due to the political freedoms enjoyed by its populace, their relative economic independence and self-determination having served to elevate their minds.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ms Beverley A. Randall on 15 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am pleased with my purchase. I needed a copy of this book for study purposes. Wollstonecraft sounds like a remarkable woman for her time. It is a good read and was reasonably priced.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating, poignant, beautifully written 7 Sept. 2004
By Puabi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I admit I am biased since I am reading this in an Email group called "18th Century Worlds", which perhaps give me more insight and perception into the world of Mary Wollstonecraft. But my Penguin edition of the book is very good, including as it does both Mary's "Short Residence" and the biography of her by her widowed husband William Godwin. Richard Holmes' introduction is a delight, situating the book in its context and also making the life of Mary accessible, and the relationships between Mary and the people of her day and age very interesting.

So back to the text of Mary's letters. If you have ever wondered what it was like to be an active, passionate, capable and brave woman at the latter end of the 18th century, when the French Revolution and the tides of Romanticism were sweeping over Europe, and challenging Enlightenment thought-- or even if you've never given a damn-- this is an attention-grabbing and engrossing account. Provided you can get over its prose, or approach it open-mindedly (which many easily bored illiterati might not be able to), you will be struck by its poetic qualities, and by Wollstonecraft's candid emotional intensity.

In the early 1790s, a poltically radical Englishwoman woman took a business trip to Scandinavia on behalf of her common-law husband, an American businessman involved in smuggling. She took with her only her young daughter, still a child, and her French maid. "Residence in Sweden" is an account of her journey written in the form of letters to the man she left behind (though this doesn't show up in the text itself, the informative introduction gives the background). Partway into her trip, she leaves her child and the nurse behind and continues on her own to regions remote and picturesque, and foreign not only to most English women of the period, but to the majority of English men as well.

Wollstonecraft goes on philosopical rambles, as the images of social life and the landscape around her remind her of her experiences in revolutionary France. The text raise many questions important to the Enlightenment philosophes, about the role of women, man's place in nature, human habits and manners. Never are we allowed to forget that we are reading the words of a flesh and blood woman who feels deeply. Many of her recollections are painful, and sometimes she is depressed. But there is always something arrestingly beautiful in what she describes, some touch of the author's vivacity and the newness and intensity of her travels, to steer one away from the melancholy, or at least to make it something more sublime.

I'm taking this one with me to college, and I foresee many re-readings. Holmes calls it Mary's best literary work: it has none of the bombast of her "Vindication of the Rights of Woman" but instead is something even more thoughtful and readable.

For companion reading I highly recommend Claire Tomalin's "Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft".
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Letters Written During A Short Residence In Sweden, Norway And Denmark (1889) 8 Feb. 2011
By Rumenocity - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A great book, it puts you in Scandinavia in the late 1800's and you can feel the life.
An excellent company that reproduces out of print books for the public.
Highly recommended for the brain un-dead.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Scandinavian companionable settings 31 Mar. 2010
By Dag Stomberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Mary Wollstonecraft's Scandinavian journey lasted from June to October 1795. This book consists of letters to Gilbert Imlay.
He was the father of her daughter.

The descriptions of Sweden, Norway and Denmark she saw during
this time are exceedingly conclusive and puts the reader there.

Intrigued?

A charming use of the English language {although at times genteel};
nevertheless, poignantly stimulating to a fault telling what she
experienced.

Truly a classic!

Dag Stomberg
St. Andrews, Scotland
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Don't recall this book! 10 April 2014
By Kathleen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I can't say much about this book as I don't remember buying it. It had to have been a book that my daughter needed for a college class.
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